London: Southampton drew a line under a miserable run of five successive defeats with an emphatic 3-0 Premier League victory over Everton at St Mary`s Stadium on Saturday.
A first-half own goal from Romelu Lukaku and second-half strikes by Graziano Pelle and Maya Yoshida secured the win that brought relief to manager Ronald Koeman.
Saints` disastrous recent run had seen them drop from second place to fifth, and while this win did not restore them to the Champions League places, it revived their unexpected challenge for a top-four spot.
For Everton manager Roberto Martinez, however, there were few positives to be taken from a defeat that left his team in mid-table after a run of just one win in five league games.
Signs of Koeman`s frustration were evident at Bramall Lane this week when the Dutchman found himself in a spat with the Sheffield United bench during Southampton`s embarrassing League Cup defeat by the third-tier club.
It has been a testing period for the south-coast club and Koeman`s efforts to improve his side`s fortunes have not been helped by a testing run of injuries and suspensions.
With five members of his senior squad missing, Koeman handed a first start to 19-year-old midfielder Harrison Reed and named four teenagers on the bench.
The youthful look to Southampton`s squad, however, appeared to have little effect on Koeman`s side`s performance.
The hosts quickly unsettled the Everton defence, to the extent that the home supporters were convinced Everton`s Sylvain Distin should have been sent off in the ninth minute.
The French defender was caught on the wrong side of Shane Long when the striker made a darting forward run, but referee Jon Moss decided there had been no infringement despite Long tumbling under Distin`s challenge.And Long was at the centre of a second controversial incident that indirectly led to the opening goal.
This time the forward appeared to have been fouled by Phil Jagielka while challenging for a bouncing ball in the Everton area, but the referee again ignored the home side`s appeals and instead awarded a corner.
That was a let-off for the visitors, but the reprieve was short-lived. When Jack Ward-Prowse swung in the corner, the ball bounced off Lukaku and past Tim Howard for the 38th-minute opening goal.
Everton had conceded two own goals in their 2-0 defeat at St Mary`s last season and Lukaku`s moment of misfortune raised fears of a repeat.
Martinez`s side had offered little to suggest they could get back into the game, with a long-range Ross Barkley effort that goalkeeper Fraser Forster fielded comfortably the best they could muster.
And they were fortunate to reach the interval trailing by just one goal, with Pelle guilty of failing to make more of two good first-half chances.
Everton started the second period with more purpose, but when they failed to find a way through the Southampton defence, Koeman`s side once again asserted themselves.
They doubled their lead mid-way through the half when home right-back Nathaniel Clyne once again found space down the flank and whipped in a telling cross.
Clyne had made life for England left-back Leighton Baines extremely uncomfortable and this time his well-placed cross was met by Long, who rose above the Everton defence at the far post.
The Irishman`s knock-down fell to Pelle and the Italy international showed a goal-scorer`s instincts to turn quickly and fire the ball past Howard.
The third goal came in the 82nd minute when Japanese centre-back Yoshida headed home Steven Davis`s left-wing cross.